Museum Exhibitions as the Public Commons

In this third lecture of the Reimagining Engagement series, Wayne LaBar, Vice President for Exhibitions and Featured Experiences, Liberty Science Center (Jersey City, NJ), discusses strategies for involving the public in developing exhibitions at the Liberty Science Center.

Four years ago the Liberty Science Center (LSC) embarked upon an ongoing effort to engage the general public in the creation of the exhibition experience. Unlike earlier work done in the field with selected groups and direct facilitated involvement, LSC was interested in applying the open source, personal choice, large group participation movement that had become part of the public’s expected way in which to interact socially on the web and increasingly in other media. LSC started by considering ways in which finished experiences–ones that were out on the exhibition floor–could be added or changed by the public.

The lessons learned from this effort–as well as the continued growth of social media and the public’s engagement in issues of science and technology–caused the LSC to attempt a new approach to engaging the public. The fundamental question was could visitors become involved in the exhibition process from the very beginning using current social media tools? How might this change the exhibition as well as the exhibition process? This has been applied with design and the development of a new exhibition called Cooking. This evening’s presentation will look at the impact of Cooking on the design and development of new exhibitions: concept ownership, opportunities for connections, the management of such projects, privacy, and rights issues have arisen as well. The project continues to be a research as well creative work in progress.


Wayne LaBar, Vice President of Exhibitions and FeaturedExperiences at the Liberty Science Center and Principal-in-Charge of LSCExperience Services has twenty four years of experience in museum and sciencecenter planning, project management, leadership, exhibition design anddevelopment, implementation, exhibition technology and networking. LaBar’s currentinterests are leading organizations to becoming more impactful to theircommunities, developing innovative and new exhibition and public programming,experimenting and advancing the museum field with new paradigms that areshaping our society’s means of communicating, and working together.

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